Did you know that stress and anxiety are not the same thing?
Stress and anxiety are common health concerns of many individuals however, they are not the same thing. Stress is your body’s reaction to harmful or threatening situations whether they are real or not and triggers a chemical reaction to occur in your body known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Stress can mean different things to each individual and while a small amount of stress is useful in pushing you forward and keeping you motivated, when this starts to consume your life, it can begin to impact areas of your health.
Anxiety on the other hand, is your body’s reaction to stress and is the ongoing worry or fear that something bad is going to happen and this can start to impact your day-to-day life with symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, sweating, racing heart and sleep issues all presenting for a prolonged period.
Insights into a national study undertaken in Australia in 2021 show 15% of Australians experienced psychological stress with the results showing younger Australians (16-34 years) were more likely to experience stress .
Symptoms of stress
Stress impacts each person differently. Some common symptoms of stress include:
- Difficult focusing on tasks
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Low mood/energy
- Racing thoughts
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety presents in each individual differently with some of the common symptoms including:
- Racing heart
- Sleep issues
- Digestive upset
Causes of stress & anxiety
Everything in your internal and external environments, the food you eat, the exercise you do, the thoughts you think impact your nervous system. When you encounter a stressor and your brain decides that you are in danger (whether this be a real threat or perceived threat), it sends a signal which causes the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to be released. These hormones help your body react and respond to stress and can cause any of the symptoms listed above.
Common causes of stress include:
- Feeling under lots of pressure
- Facing big changes in your life
- Financial worries
- Lack of control over a situation
- Being unhappy or unfulfilled in life
- Traumatic events
Managing stress & mild anxiety
It’s likely at some stage in your life you have experienced either stress or mild anxiety and whilst you can’t always change the factors contributing to these, you can support your body to manage stress and mild anxiety through some simple dietary and lifestyle changes.
Top foods to support stress and anxiety:
- B Vitamins - B vitamins are responsible for supporting your nervous system’s response to stress.
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. These vegetables are an amazing source of magnesium which is a mineral responsible for modulating activity of the body’s stress-response system.
- Salmon – is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are needed to support optimal brain health.
- Avocados – well known as a source of healthy fats, avocados also contain stress relieving B vitamins.
- Dark chocolate – some researchers have found dark chocolate as an effective way to reduce perceived stress in females . It also provides magnesium (an essential mineral for your nervous system and stress response).
Avoid excess caffeine, alcohol and sugary foods as these can all contribute to a decline in your energy levels making stress worse.
Top lifestyle tips to support stress & anxiety:
If you are prone to experiencing stress and mild anxiety, incorporating a few self-care practices throughout the day can have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Try the following:
- 10-15 minutes of meditation per day
- A daily walk-in nature
- Get creative – draw, dance, sing
- Try an aromatherapy air diffuser with scents such as Lavender.
Thompson’s Herbal Favourites for Supporting Stress & Mild Anxiety
Various herbs in various herbs are traditionally used to support the stress response in individuals.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been used for thousands of years. It is used in traditional Western herbal medicine to support the bodies stress response.
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is also used in traditional Western herbal medicine to reduce nervous tension and the negative effects stress has on the body. St John’s Wort can be effective in reducing symptoms of mild anxiety experienced as well as supporting health mood balance.
Kava (Piper methysticum) a plant growing in the Pacific Islands has been drunk in community gatherings for over 1,000 years. Kava root is useful in relieving symptoms of stress and mild anxiety and works to aid in the relaxation of the mind especially when racing thoughts are experienced.
Looking for extra support to help manage your stress and mild anxiety? Thompson’s Stress, Anxiety & Sleep range has been mastered to support you through these times.
Remember, if you are struggling with ongoing stress & mild anxiety, it’s important to speak with a qualified health professional for supportive therapy and advice during these times and beyond.
 National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2020-21 | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au)
Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study - PMC (nih.gov)